In the Name of Humanities

By London, Herbert | The American Spectator, April 2007 | Go to article overview

In the Name of Humanities


London, Herbert, The American Spectator


In the Name of Humanities Renewing American Culture: The Pursuit of Happiness by Theodore Roosevelt Malloch and Scott T. Massey (M&M SCRIVENER PRESS, 203 PAGES, $28)

Reviewed by Herbert London

AT A RECENT MEETING with an administrator at a Chinust-university, I was asked to describe the components of an ideal college curriculum. Based on my four decades of university experience, I explained the need for a balance of three general disciplines: natural science, social science, and the humanities. He looked at me quizzically and said. "We too believe in scientific study, but 1 don't understand the need for the humanities."

Unfortunately not only is the case for the humanities not made in China, it is not made in the United States. The humanities have become the intellectual orphan in American universities increasingly obsessed with vocational aspiration. Moreover, the core principles of Western civilization transmitted through history, philosophy, and literature have been trivialized by an emphasis on relativism and specialized courses. The foundational values of our Western heritage have been put in the cauldron of semiotics and emerged as selfcentered opinion. Furthermore, damage has resulted from a faculty disinclination to teach general courses. Rather than a history of Western civilization-to cite one example-professors choose to teach an area of specialization, e.g., the French Revolution. The consequence is that context, relationships, and the flow of history are lost. Students are rudderless in a sea of narrowly focused offerings.

However, all is not lost. Theodore Roosevelt Malloch and Scott T. Massey have written Renewing American Culture: The Pursuit of Happiness, a book designed to spark a dialogue about the humanities. As the authors note, their thesis is predicated on core principles, how they may be renewed, and ultimately the manner of dissemination. As a concluding coda they offer 36 propositions to achieve these ends.

First, and in my judgment foremost, they take on the critics, the navsavers who either dismiss Western ideals or create existential standards that suggest the past offers little guidance for the present. Malloch and Massey recognize that without deep intellectual and creative energy the efflorescence of life-affirming choices is limited. "What needs to be preserved?

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